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Geneva hosts new discussions on South Caucasus

March 17, 2015, 8:54 UTC+3 GENEVA
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GENEVA, March 17. /TASS/. A new round of international talks aimed at encouraging security and stability in the volatile South Caucasus region opens in Geneva on Tuesday.

Participating in the two-day consultations, held under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), are representatives from Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia, the United States, and South Ossetia. Traditionally, discussions are conducted in two working groups focusing on practical issues of ensuring security and stability in the region, and on humanitarian issues, including problems of displaced people and refugees.

The participants in these working groups are expected to pay particular attention on guarantees for Georgia’s non-use of force against neighbouring states.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week noted that Moscow considered the Geneva discussions a very useful format.

"Talking about security, we have long been calling for adopting a document on the non-use of force," Lavrov said on Wednesday after talks with Abkhaz counterpart Vyacheslav Chirikba.

"Our Georgian partners would want to turn this document into an anti-Russian venture. European, UN and other mediators seem to understand that speculations should not be made on this issue, but it’s not working yet," he said.

"We consider it [the Geneva discussions] to be a very helpful format. As it was being shaped, some positive changes occurred," he said, noting that: "It is a format where the direct participants in the process - Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia - can talk directly."

"Talking about humanitarian issues, Georgia has unfortunately decided - and we have repeatedly voiced our concerns about it - not to consider the concrete problems of the humanitarian situation of people who were forced out of their homes, but instead to unwind this topic in the political line through the U.N. General Assembly," Lavrov said.

Russia’s initiative to adopt a joint statement of all parties to the Geneva discussions on the non-use of force has been subject to negotiation in this format for several years. But Tbilisi has balked at the idea, demanding that Russia should make a unilateral statement on the non-use of force against Georgia. Moscow does not consider itself a party to the conflict of five years ago and refuses to make such a deal with Tbilisi.

The talks in Geneva were first convened upon agreements reached by the Russian and French presidents after tragic events in August 2008 in South Ossetia when Georgia attacked the region. Soon after that, Moscow recognised South Ossetia and Georgia as independent states.

Since 2009, the meetings were held twice a month bringing together representatives from Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia, the United Nations and the EU, but the five-sided mechanism terminated its activity in April 2012.

New rounds of discussions, which are the only platform for a dialogue between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, were resumed last October and then also held in December with delegations from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia, and the United States, as well as representatives from the EU, UN and OSCE.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said after the December meeting: "No one expects any breakthrough from the Geneva discussions, but the fact that all parties come together and openly discuss existing problems is certainly a positive factor.".

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